It can be tough to explain fighting to someone who doesn’t watch hockey.
Try explaining this:
Three seconds into the game (yes, first period), the Rangers and Devils had three simultaneous fights break out. That’s barely enough time to make a “Yo Mama” joke! Gloves and helmets, report to the ice surface.
So what’s the story?
The Rangers have lost 6 of 11 in March. The red hot Penguins (now with extra Crosby!) are breathing down their necks for 1st Place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. A slip would knock them down to 4th and a cage match for playoff home ice advantage with the Flyers. The Devils have similar Feb and March records, and are firmly planted in the playoffs. They could claw into 5th, or drop into 7th, but they’re going to make it either way.
Be honest. Was it just because the Devils had to wear those awful green uniforms on Saturday?
No(t only). There’s a ton of history and bad blood between two teams living so close together. It’s like fighting with your bother in the back of mom’s station wagon on the way to day camp. Just this year:
- On December 20, Mike Rupp fought Cam Janssen three seconds into the game (yes, first period) . [video]
- On February 7, Rupp and Janssen decided “why wait?” and dropped the gloves two seconds into the game (yes, again). Bradon Dubinsky and Eric Boulton also fought at that time. [video]
So one fight at the opening faceoff, then two fights… you see where this is going. In the six Rangers vs. Devils matchups this season, as a total of 22 fighting majors have been handed out.
Who are these madmen?
Each of these guys is a brawler. Starting these lines is like stepping into the ring, gloved up and ready for a heavyweight title bout. Last night was crazy, but every one of the players was well-matched and ready to go.
And what’s the point?
Ah, the age old question of fighting in hockey. Some say let ‘em swing. Others, like this SBNation writer, think premeditated stage fights like this need to be eliminated, lest the NHL wax hypocritical about player safety. The discussion over fights has heated up lately, with so many man-games lost to concussions and even Ralph Nader lobbying Bettman to ban brawls [link]. (Wow, was that a slow news day.) Others cite the NHL’s nearly 100-year history of policing itself with a little on-ice law enforcement [link].
I admit that I laughed my butt off watching this fight. Brawls like this don’t happen often and I don’t think allowing fights promotes fighting. We’ve all seen bad fights – attacking a smaller guy, hitting someone who’s down, even a non-fighter squaring off against an experienced combatant (Jay Beagle, how’s your head?). For the most part, the dangerous plays (hits from behind, boarding) are being addressed by the NHL, albeit with varying success. That alone won’t keep players safe in the brutal, physical game of hockey. But outlawing fighting won’t change that – it could even open the ice for big guys to run other teams’ stars without fear of consequences. Don’t tell me penalties are consequences, unless we’re getting robot referees with laser vision and the ability to stop time. Their job is the call by the rules. A fighter’s job is sometimes to call by the heart. Every hockey fan has seen a fight change the course of a game, because it’s part of the game.
Overall, I say guys who don’t want to fight, don’t fight – like Stamkos [link]. Guys who don’t fight but sometimes need to fire up their teams? Well, they fight Matt Niskanen [link]. Neither way makes them bulletproof. That’s hockey.
What do you guys think? I’d love to hear from someone who wants fighting banned – there are a lot of good arguments and probably a million examples I haven’t considered.